April 3, 2018

O'Brien and Remy Get Simple Information Wrong, Present Nonsense As Insight, Remain Blind To Changes In Baseball, And Ignorant About The Red Sox's Core Philosophies

NESN's Dave O'Brien and Jerry Remy did not have a very good game on Tuesday night. Over the course of the Red Sox's extra-inning win over the Marlins, the NESN duo got basic information wrong (and never offered a correction), presented unadulterated nonsense as genuine insight, and displayed a stunning ignorance both of how the Red Sox front office wants to run its team and of how the game of baseball itself has changed in the last 15-20 years.

The game was only one pitch old when Remy gave viewers blatantly wrong information about Marlins starter Jose Urena. Remy said Urena "hit three batters in a row when he faced the Cubs on Opening Day, after a leadoff home run". As I mentioned earlier, Urena did not hit three consecutive batters. While Urena did plunk a trio of Cubs in that first inning, not even two of them were consecutive, at any point.

The Cubs sent nine batters to the plate in that inning. After allowing the leadoff home run, Urena issued a walk, hit a batter, got the first out on a strikeout, recorded the second out on a grounder to first, hit a batter, walked in a run, forced in another run by hitting a batter, and ended the inning with a grounder to second.

A bad inning, to be sure. However, Remy said Urena did something that he did not do. Does it matter that Remy did not get the details right? Of course it does. He's not some guy running his mouth three stools down from you at the bar. Providing accurate information about baseball and the players on the field is his job. And Urena's bad inning did not happen during the Deadball Era or the 1950s or even the 1990s. It happened five days ago! It was the only game Urena has pitched in this year. It should be fairly easy to get (and give) the correct information.

I am not paid any money by anyone to talk about baseball, and so I don't need to do any prep work before I watch a game, but I knew Remy was wrong the instant I heard his words. One reason (besides reading about the game in question and having remembered what occurred): If a pitcher gave up a home run on his first pitch of the season and then hit the next three batters, he would likely have been ejected - or found himself in the middle of a brawl. And a bench-clearing brawl only 10 minutes into the season would have been big news.

(O'Brien also has a history of giving wrong information - and has repeated the same wrong information for several days.)
In the bottom of the second, Remy noted that Chris Sale was throwing a lot of changeups "because I don't think he feels the fastball yet". Sale's fastball was 3-5 mph slower than usual. O'Brien, after being quiet for a bit, seemed to put this forth as a possible explanation:
It's interesting to note that Sale has had trouble with the National League East. He's never won a game against the NL East. He's 0-4. ERA about six and a half. The rest of the National League against, he's 6-1. ERA of 1.54. So for whatever reason, the National League East has given him fits. Not said very often against the left-hander.
If you are interested, O'Brien got this bit of nonsense from the Red Sox Game Notes:
SETTING SALE: In 5 career starts against NL East teams, Chris Sale is 0-4 with a 6.54 ERA and a .273 opponent AVG (31.2 IP, 23 ER, 33-for-121)...In 12 starts against all other NL clubs, he is 6-1 with a 1.54 ERA and a .174 opponent AVG (87.2 IP, 15 ER, 54-for-310).
Just because something is in the Red Sox's Game Notes does not make it important or meaningful ... or worth saying out loud. (Should I be grateful that OB did not give all of the other stats?)

NESN's producers thought that information was so important, they created a graphic before the game began and put it on screen after O'Brien gave the same information:
So O'Brien thinks that Sale is more prone to giving up runs and losing games - and his velocity is a bit off tonight - because back in 1993, the Commissioner's Office put the expansion Marlins in the NL East and, wouldn't you know it, Sale just can't get it together against the five teams in that division. Sale was only four years old when the Marlins joined the NL, but his fate against them was sealed!

And of course, O'Brien leans heavily on W-L record to show how poorly Sale has fared. How can someone be so clueless (or downright stupid) and remain gainfully employed in the job of telling people intelligent things about baseball? I suppose if it had been announced during last night's game that the Marlins were suddenly being reassigned to the NL Central, Sale's fastball would have jumped back up to 95 and his curveball would have immediately had more bite!

By the way, included in those poor NL East stats is Sale's complete game against the Phillies on June 25, 2017: 8-4-1-1-10. The Red Sox lost 1-0, but I don't think the Phillies gave Sale many "fits" that day. Also, Sale's one start against the Mets in 2013 - 8-4-3-2-13 - seems mostly "fit"-free.

So not only is this information completely meaningless and just hearing it makes you dumber, it isn't even really correct! (Also, Sale had two relief appearances against the Nationals way back in 2011, allowing only one hit in three innings. Those games of course were very influential on the velocity of Sale's fastball last night.)
Craig Kimbrel and his Beard were on the mound in the bottom of the tenth inning:
Remy: Something you don't normally see, usually you see Kimbrel, if you're at home, coming in in a tie game, but Cora changing that up a little bit, bringing him in here, the 10th inning.

O'Brien: He's had him warming up and he also got him heated up last night and maybe part of that thinking is he doesn't want to keep warming him up and not get him into the ball game - but it is unusual.

Remy: Well, he said he was going to use him in different ways. This is a different way, right here.
Having Kimbrel pitching in that situation is different or unusual only if you have been ignorant of the way baseball has changed in the last 15-20 years and ignorant about the way the Red Sox front office believes a bullpen should be used. Bill James has written about how to best use a bullpen for more than three decades and he has worked for the Red Sox for 15 years! It should go without saying that a Red Sox announcer should know a little bit (at the very least) about how the Red Sox organization operates.

How many dozens of times have we seen a manager refuse to use his closer in a tie game on the road until there is a "save situation" and the team ends up losing the game because a lesser reliever gives up runs and the closer never gets into the game? Bringing Kimbrel in for the 10th inning was nothing more than common sense. The Red Sox needed to keep the Marlins from scoring (or they would lose the game) and Kimbrel was the best reliever remaining in the bullpen.
Both announcers had no clue whether Mookie Betts's fly ball to deep center in the eleventh was caught by Lewis Brinson or whether it went over the wall for a home run. The catch was obvious to me watching at home.

And O'Brien's obsession with the number of hits each team has shows no sign of abating. Late in the game, he made it a point to tell viewers that although the score remained tied, "the Red Sox are ahead in hits 9-8". (Do they get an additional half-win for that?)


Ernie Paicopolos said...

Excellent observations. I USED to be a fan of O'Brien, but he just tends to lose focus and 'zone out' during games—devolving into mindless chit-chat with Jerry. Meanwhile, actually stuff happens in the game that goes un-analyzed. Frustrating. I think O'Brien makes Remy worse as well.

FenFan said...

Listening to Remy during one of the recent broadcasts had me shaking my head. So much of his color commentary seems to point out the obvious to anyone watching the game ("Xander hit the ball sharply down the line and it was enough to score the runner from second" -- call me underwhelmed!), which has been his mainstay in recent years. There's little to no analysis in his commentary, so why bother having him in the booth?

laura k said...

My #1 reason why our new AppleTV streaming device -- although I love it -- can never replace our Roku: Roku lets you watch the game with radio audio. Allan dislikes Tim Neverett, but not having to listen to DOB is SO awesome.